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MEN' OF MATHEMATICS
a scientific dinner. Realizing what had overtaken him, he
resolved never to touch alcohol again, and for two years he kept
his resolution. Then, during a scientific meeting at the estate of
Lord Rosse (owner of the largest and most useless telescope
then in existence), his old rival, Airy, jeered at him for drinking
nothing but water. Hamilton gave in, and thereafter took all he
wanted - which was more than enough. Still, even this handicap
could not put him out of the race, although without it he pro-
bably would have gone farther and have reached a greater
height than he did. However, he got high enough, and moral-
izing may be left to moralists.
Before considering what Hamilton regarded as his master-
piece, we may briefly summarize the principal honours which
came his way. At thirty he held an influential office in the
British Association for the Advancement of Science at its
Dublin meeting, and at the same time the Lord-Lieutenant bade
him to hKneel down, Professor Hamilton', and then, having
dubbed him on both shoulders with the sword of State, to "Rise
up, Sir William Rowan Hamilton'. This was one of the few
occasions in his life on which Hamilton had nothing whatever
to say. At thirty-two he became President of the Royal Irish
Academy, and at thirty-eight was awarded a Civil List life
pension of 200 a year from the British Government, Sir
Robert Peel, Ireland's reluctant friend, being then Premier.
Shortly before this Hamilton had made his capital invention -
quaternions.
An honour which pleased him more than any he had ever
received was the last, as he lay on his deathbed: he was elected
the first foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences
of the United States, which was founded during the Civil War.
This honour was in recognition of his work in quaternions,
principally, which for some unfathomable reason stirred
American mathematicians of the time (there were only one or
two in existence. Benjamin Peirce of Harvard being the chief)
more profoundly than had any other British mathematics since
Newton's Prindpia. The early popularity of quaternions in the
United States is somewhat of a mystery. Possibly the turgid
eloquence of the Lectures on Quaternions captivated the taste